The Whys and Wherefores

History and cooking are two of my main interests, and I’ve been fascinated for years with the history of cooking.  When I was about 14 a family friend gave me a collection of historical recipes published by the British Museum; my next acquisition, picked up during my undergrad career as a Classical Archaeology major, was a copy of a 1950s translation of Apicius’s ancient Roman De Re Coquinaria.  Within a few years I found my stack of cookbooks expanding in size and scope and definitely taking on “collection” form.  I rescued a volume of 70s casserole recipes from a roommate’s Salvation Army box and began scouring thrift stores for kitschy cookbooks.  My single shelf of books went from half-full to 2 rows deep.

This collection has been gathering dust on my shelves: I tend to buy these books, flip through and marvel at black & white plates depicting aspics and roasts, and then forget about them.  On occasion I find a recipe I think I’d like to try…but I usually get distracted by my colorful, easy-to-use Martha Stewart Cookie/Cupcake books and move on.

I decided this must stop: I will dig back into the culinary past to look for recipe gems and curiosities, and I will document my efforts here.  I’m not Julie Powell – I’m not setting this up as a challenge.  Think of me rather as a Cookbook Indiana Jones scouring the strata of my shelves in search of any number of Holy Grails: the best refrigerator cookies from the 50s, new flavor combos from Ancient Rome, esoteric country-style forcemeats.

Enjoy and please pass on any of your own recipe finds!

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